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Bulldogs Run Fastest 4xMile Relay in Yale History to Close Penn Relays

James Shirvell. (photo by Sam Rubin '95, Yale Sports Publicity)
James Shirvell. (photo by Sam Rubin '95, Yale Sports Publicity)

Shirvell Runs Impressive Anchor Leg, Secures Fifth Place

NEW HAVEN, Conn.—After two days of impressive performances in front of thousands of fans on the biggest stage, the Yale men's track and field team apparently saved its best for last. On Saturday, the third and final day of competition for the Bulldogs at the historic Penn Relays, the Elis' 4xMile-relay team of senior Timothy Hillas, sophomore John McGowan, sophomore Matt Nussbaum and junior James Shirvell ran the fastest 4xMile relay in Yale history and managed a remarkable fifth-place finish in the Penn Relays College Men's 4xMile Championship of America. The Bulldogs finished in 16:20.35, less than three seconds behind Oregon—the winners of the event—and more than 30 seconds ahead of Yale's previous record time in the event, a 16:52.38 recorded back in 2004.

Although the Elis have historically rarely competed in the 4xMile relay, they entered some of their finest and most accomplished athletes in the event on Saturday—a move that clearly paid off. McGowan, who excels in the 800-meter and 1,500-meter runs and who placed ninth in the mile at the Ivy League Indoor Championships earlier this season, ran a strong opening leg for the Bulldogs (4:07.8), and the Bulldogs were tied for second when he handed the baton off to Nussbaum, a fellow sophomore. 

Nussbaum typically specializes in the longer distances and has become a true cross country star—not to mention a U.S. Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association All-Academic Honoree. But Nussbaum ran like a mile-run specialist on Saturday, finishing his leg in 4:05.3.

Hillas, the team captain, took over the next leg. Coming into the race, his personal-best mile time was a 4:05.43 he ran at the Terrier Classic earlier this season. Hillas showed off for the massive Penn Relays crowd, however, running a 4:03.9 to keep the Bulldogs in the mix for a top spot. 

Shirvell, who placed third in the 1,000-meter run at the Ivy League Indoor Championships this season and has recorded three first-place finishes during the outdoor season alone, then did some of his best running of the season, if not his collegiate career. Shirvell ran a 4:03.4, the fastest leg of any of his teammates and the third-fastest anchor leg of any of the teams competing in the relay on Saturday, to secure the Bulldogs' top-five finish. All in all, each team member with the exception of McGowan outran his personal-best mile time—Hillas by approximately 1.5 seconds, Shirvell by nearly six seconds and Nussbaum by just less than 17 seconds.

The Elis not only beat out Ivy rivals Columbia and Dartmouth in the event, but also outran teams from large powerhouse schools like Boston College, Clemson, Duke and Georgetown. 

Despite bringing only 10 athletes to Philadelphia, the Bulldogs recorded a range of memorable performances over the course of Thursday, Friday and Saturday. The Elis certainly held their own against some of the world's finest athletes, and the team will have plenty of momentum to build on when they continue their hectic schedule by hurrying home to New Haven to host the Yale Springtime Invitational on Sunday. A full schedule of events for the meet is available at Results will be posted on at the end of the day's action.

Report by Zach Schloss '15, Yale Sports Publicity